Monday, October 13, 2014

How do we as Church respond to a heart-tugging statement like "he is our son"?

In the current extraordinary synod on the family that is being held in the Vatican, there has been a noticeable presence of laity who present themselves with their own life experiences on marriage and family life before the many bishops present there.  An Australian couple Ron and Mavis Pirola was one of the six couples chosen for this task, and they presented some advice on how the church should “uphold the truth while expressing compassion and mercy” by giving an example of how their friends dealt with the thorny issue of having a gay son who was bringing his partner home for a Christmas family gathering.  Apparently, this couple (not the Pirolas) said that they knew that their grandchildren would welcome the son and his partner into the family, and that their response could be summed up in four words “He is our son”.

That phrase is a very loaded one which bears deeper reflection.  Seen from the standpoint of compassion and sensitivity, it does seem to have the ability to trivialize or even abrogate all that the Church has taught about the evils of an active same-sex relationship.  Often, such phrases as these are thrown in the face of those who stand courageously and prophetically for Church teachings that call for a stalwart stance for chastity, abstinence and self-denial.  It does appear that because one is one’s own son or a daughter, the Church’s teaching which are undoubtedly difficult and sacrificial, can somehow be either denied or fudged.  In the face of these sentiments, holding on to Church teachings about sacrifice and chastity in an unmitigated way will easily make one appear to be unflinching, cold, and having a mind without having a heart.

The difficulty facing the Church or any authority that stands for truth will always be that of teaching and imparting the truth while at the same time tempering it with a heart and mindfulness of the weaker parties who are often subject to the law of gradualness.  This ‘law’ simply means that there are some folk who seem to be immediately struck with grace and can comprehend and accept truth and Church teachings, whilst others seem to be able to take are rather circuitous route to acceptance, often making many side-trips and stops along life’s highway.  When we seem to be in a rush to have everyone understand and accept Church teachings, we have to also accept that there are people who seem take a much longer time. 

I come back then to the phrase used by the couple that seems to almost bless their son’s choice of having a same-sex partner in life.  “He is our son” appears to be a trump card of sorts. 

Allow me to take you to another scene where a similar phrase was uttered not just by a human parent, but God himself.  When Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, the heavens, we are told, opened, and a voice was heard “This is my son, the beloved”. 

With the eyes of faith, we need to see just what this is teaching us.  When Jesus spoke about the need to eat the bread that was himself, and many walked away, he must have wondered if this was what it meant to be “God’s son, the beloved”.  When he was in the midst of being betrayed and abandoned in the loneliness of Gethsamane, he must have recalled in that moment of raw aloneness that the Father declared once “This is my son, the beloved”.  When he was scourged and crowned with thorns, hung upon the cross on Calvary and left to die of asphyxiation, surely he must have pondered what it really meant to have God declare “This is my son, the beloved”.

Am I overly graphic?  Perhaps, but it does serve a point.  It brings across that point of connection that we all have as either children of our parents, or of parents of children of our own, when seen in the context of Jesus being the son of God.  Being a son or a daughter must always be seen in the light of what and who Jesus was to the Father.  To only see it as something that gives us a sense of entitlement or privilege is to miss half of what this truth teaches us about life.  The other half is to know that there is a certain selflessness and abandonment that each one of us is called to in life, which life when correctly lived almost necessistates, such that we carry on the sufferings of Christ which have yet to be completed with a redemptive mentality. 

Would that the couple facing the son’s choice of living out his same-sex attraction be as prophetic as they could, they would love the son still, but perhaps not fight shy in making it clear that not all our desires in life are called to be fulfilled, and that some are called to be martyrs without the shedding of a drop of blood.  Would that the son know that he is indeed the offspring of a loving and faithful couple, he would be aware that God does give grace to those who stay close to the cross in life’s journey.  No parent will willingly give his son a stone if he asked for bread, or a snake if he asked for a fish.  But perhaps we should be much more astute in how we approve or ‘bless’ some of the choices that our offspring make, because we may well be giving snakes in stead of fish, and stones in stead of bread.

To say that I am speaking of an ideal or a dream is to say that the Church is idealistic or existing in a dream-like state.  It is not.  The Church is very aware of the pains and struggles of such families, and is also aware that there are countless families who are ill-equipped with the ‘tools of faith’ that gives some counsel and words of truth to handle these situations when they present themselves.  A large part of the problem may well be a linguistic one, where the vocabulary that we use to discuss these sensitive issues serve more to divide than unite, antagonize than to soothe.  It is when our faith wobbles on weakened foundational structures that it doesn’t take much of a rising tide to wash away the little faith that our lives have been built on. 

While it is tempting to confuse mercy with the need to take the hard path of love, we must ensure that we do not fall easily into it. Mercy requires that we, with great charity, look lovingly upon those who make choices that are clearly inordinate as far as God’s will is concerned.  But mercy also requires that we are clear in not making compromises when it comes to truth. 

This great difficulty is itself a cross that many a family will have to carry, albeit with the whole church praying for and with them.


  1. Hi Fr. Luke, agree with your point about aligning our lives according to what God's will is for us. I pray for clarity and to totally trust in God when faced with struggles and challenges in life's journey. I'm truly grateful when God sends 'angels' to brighten the day and lighten the load. God bless you and Thank You for your Courage and Love for His sheep.

  2. Your reflection makes me think of the passage where Jesus says...anyone who does the will of my Father is my brother , sister mother.."and by extension son. and also as exemplified by Jesus on the cross, Son. What is the will of God? Is it mere rule following? or is that the slavery of the law

    Is it really the case that people are slow to grasp truths of the church?
    Are they explained with clarity and charity to all or shrouded in mystery(I am using this word as it is ordinarily understood)...crowded by gossip and judgement....

    If you ask ten Catholics what the church teaches re people who die as a result of suicide will you get the same answer? Do some Catholics still see illness as punishment for sin? will victims of abuse receive stony silence and indifference...

    If i ask 3 priests the same question on an issue, will i get the same answer? If there is but one answer, then i guess I should

    In scripture Jesus shows mercy to people because of the situation they are in he opens the eyes of the blind cures the lame feeds the hungry heals the sick shows mercy to sinners and this encounter with Mercy, draws them to Him...transforms them...makes them want to change....the Truth is embodied is real,,,they can conform to it.....

    He is most critical of those who claim to uphold the law but in reality, oppress the people with it....

    I do not know the answers to the situation you mention above...I have encountered a fair number of young people (who have no idea what the church teaches -what they know comes from outside sources ) who seem to equate it with human rights....i am not sure i see it the same way

  3. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    We are in the age where Christians are faced with challenge of relativism, and we are and will always be constantly bombarded with controversial issues on right morals and human rights.

    Hence, it’s no surprise that recently in the top 10 list of Fr. Robert Barron’s most viewed videos, in the 5th place is on the topic of Gay marriage.
    ( )
    But it’s a surprise that it had more viewership than the video on the devil in the 10th placing…hmm.

    As Fr. Barron points out, the importance is to recognize that not everything that a good person does is morally good. We always need to question the integrity and purpose of our action(s). In the same vein, quoting you - "But perhaps we should be much more astute in how we approve or ‘bless’ some of the choices that our offspring make, because we may well be giving snakes in stead of fish, and stones in stead of bread."

    We are taught to love the sinner but hate the sin, indeed it has always been a very fine line to draw, under the sign of unconditional love. But isn't the purpose to loving someone helping the person become a better person, as how our heavenly Father loves us – His high hopes for us all, to be saints from sinners. ;}

    [ Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. -1 Corinthians 13:7]

    HE trusts us in our given potentiality, perseveres in our purification and strengthen/ protects us in bearing our crosses, to overcome self and brokenness.

    May God grant us the courage and persistence in choosing to love (our own “brokenness” and that of our beloved ) in God’s Way.

    PS: Dearest Fr.Luke,
    Thank You, for your last recent post(s) –inspired timely hit, as always. Am still chewing. ;}

    Wishing you a Blessed Feast Day Fr. Luke.

    Praying for you,

  4. Truly inspiring and inspired post. Thank you, Fr. Luke.

    Recently my wife (jokingly) asked me; words to the effect that, “Do I come before ALL others in your life?” I replied, “Yes, of course my Love. But actually - there IS another who comes even before you. I can’t begin to describe her reaction. But then I quickly followed up with all seriousness, “His name is Jesus.”

    It is my understanding that we have to put Jesus first. He comes before even our own parents, children and spouse. “No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me” (Matt 10:37).

    Truly loving someone is wanting for their (eternal) good, and this sometimes means we have to practice tough love – paradoxically, with great tenderness! My heart goes out to all parents who have to deal with life’s difficult, often heart-breaking situations. But we have to remain faithful to Christ and His church. Anything else would be a compromise. God bless you!

  5. I do remember that St Paul had something to say about some of the early Christians ‘unreadiness for solid food’ and perhaps that’s the rational for quoting this ‘law of gradualness’ at the recent synod on family. However, on the issue of homosexuality, the Church’s stand has been consistently clear - for she can only stand for the truth. If one calls for an application of this law of gradualness, will it not seem to be a compromise of the truth? For the danger is - how can this step-by-step progress towards God’s will- be properly monitored? If the progress takes a long time (and it may, if one is to depend on the individual’s own rate of advance) God’s command may ultimately be seen as perhaps an ideal which one needs to work towards in the distant future and not a law to be obeyed! This is harmful for the soul as the awareness of sin diminishes and probably in time to come most likely-be completely forgotten. Is doing this showing true compassion or is it just being ‘pragmatic’ and doing a compromise?

    “He is our son” ‘very loaded’ as you have said and all who have children know what it’s like to have to disagree or say no to our children. However, sometimes, when it is a firm ‘no’ said with much love and conviction - that can liberate the afflicted person from his miasma, and allow the grace of God to work.

    God bless you, Fr


  6. "But mercy also requires that we are clear in not making compromises when it comes to truth." Thank you frLuke, a teaching that i will always remember, especially as a mother, believing that eternity is endless.


  7. Dear Father,

    Archbishop William Goh: - " How are we to proclaim the Good News? The Good News must be proclaimed not only in words but in deeds. We must also match our words with deeds...... "

    Madeleine Delbrel (writer) : - If the God " whom no eyes has seen" can be known only through Christ and through His Gospel, He cannot be known through a Gospel that we have accommodated to our own understanding or our own strengths.

    We will speak "Naturally" about the single reality that can genuinely transform life and when one makes faith into something natural, it becomes for the nonbeliever SOMETHING ABSURD.

    Mother Teresa: - "We are called to be faithful not successful."